Recent evidence indicates that the rat claustrum interconnects the motor cortical areas in both hemispheres. To elucidate the functional specificity of the interhemispheric connections between the claustrum and primary motor (MI) cortex, anterograde tracer injections in specific parts of MI were paired with retrograde tracer injections in homotopic sites of the opposite hemisphere. In addition to injecting the MI forepaw (Fp) region in both hemispheres, we injected the region associated with whisker retractions (Re) and the more caudal rhythmic whisking (RW) region. While the MI-Fp region has few connections with the claustrum of either hemisphere, both whisker regions project to the contralateral claustrum, with those from the MI-RW region being denser and more extensive than those originating from the MI-Re region. Retrograde tracer injections in the MI-RW region produced more labeled neurons in the ipsilateral claustrum than retrograde tracer injections in the MI-Re. Consistent with these patterns, the overlap of labeled terminals and soma in the claustrum was greatest when both tracers were injected into the MI-RW region. When retrograde tracers were injected into the claustrum, the highest density of labeled neurons in MI appeared in the contralateral RW region. Tracer injections in the claustrum also revealed hundreds of labeled neurons throughout its rostrocaudal extent, thereby establishing the presence of long-range intraclaustral connections. These results indicate that the intrinsic and extrinsic connections of the rat claustrum are structured for rapid, interhemispheric transmission of information needed for bilateral coordination of the MI regions that regulate whisker movements.
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